Sunday, 12 January 2014

Recipe: Decadent Baked Eggs

Partly because of seeing this video recipe by the excellent American food writer Michael Ruhlman, I decided to get Kasia some Le Creuset mini cocottes as part of her chrimbo box. Like her, they're irredeemably cute and, I thought, nifty for serving a bunch of different single-portion type stuff. Chicken liver pate, set custards and mini-gratins are all on the radar. But the idea of baked eggs struck me as brilliantly simple, and not a far cry from the coddled eggs we used to get treated to as kids. My dad's recipes for chocolate, not to mention peanut-butter, coddled eggs will, rest assured, never darken these pages...

On one of the only properly frosty mornings of the winter so far, this is the perfect Sunday brunch dish. Ruhlman, in the above video, points out how versatile baked eggs are, doing seperate versions with parmesan, truffle butter and bacon. All very good I thought, but why not put all that stuff in the same pot? Basically you're getting most of the flavours of a full English, all in one mini cocotte.

As an aside, imagine my surprise to find that these cocottes, despite bearing the name of that most iconic of French brands, are made in China! Globalisation, eh? Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. As we all know, the Chinese are a great bunch of lads.

The only trick with these is to get the timing/oven temperature right. The first batch I did came out overcooked with the yolk turned solid. The second lot were a bit under. I've been putting a dod of double cream in because, well, cream is great. However, I'm omitting that in the recipe here as I think that the cold cream slows down the cooking of the egg whites, resulting in the yolks cooking before the white has set. You'll need to have a play around with different temperatures and oven placements as all ovens are different. The timing and temperature given here is per the Ruhlman recipe. Rest assured, the flavour is well worth it and once you've got it sussed this is a brilliantly easy, cute and, dare I say, impressive thing to dish up.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • One very cold and frosty morning or afternoon, during the weekend. If you can't get hold of one of these, any regular morning or afternoon will suffice
  • 4 eggs, free range and preferably fresh.
  • Approx 70g diced pancetta, smoked or unsmoked as you prefer.
  • A small lump of parmesan.
  • Some truffle oil


  • Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C, gas mark 3. 
  • Fry your cubed pancetta in a little veg oil over a high heat until well browned and crisp. Allow to cool on some kitchen roll which will also drain the excess oil from it. It should look a bit like this:

  • Brush the insides of your cocottes with some truffle oil. Be quite sparing, as if you overdo it the whole thing will just taste of truffle oil. A suggestion is better than a stern lecture when it comes to this stuff, in my view.

  • Sprinkle some pancetta into each cocotte, then crack an egg on top. Sprinkle in some more pancetta, then the other eggs, and then some more pancetta. This ensures that the pancetta is evenly distributed throughout the things.
  • Grate a generous dose of parmesan, preferably with a microplane or other fine grater, over the top of the cocotte, then it's lid on and in the oven. Bake for around 15 mins, or until the whites have just set but the yolks still have some runniness to them.

Nearly ready for le oven
That's it. Serve with toast cut into soldiers, the better for dipping, some excellent coffee or orange juice and, preferably, the promise of a whole Sunday during which you have almost precisely nothing to distract you from the important business of hunkering down and doing as little as possible. It's what winter was made for.

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